Happy Thanksgiving! What We at Golden Real Estate Are Grateful for

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I’ve long known the value of practicing gratitude, and Thanksgiving reminds each of us to reflect on our blessings, both individually and as members of our larger communities.

And since these columns are published on Thursdays, it has become a tradition for me to pause on this particular Thursday  to write about my sincere gratitude as an individual, as a husband and step-father, as a Realtor, and as an American.

So, first of all, I’m grateful for having this platform to share with fellow real estate professionals and the general public what I know (and continue to learn) about real estate. Yes, I pay for it, but I have been rewarded greatly for the effort, both in terms of financial gain from the business it generates for me and my broker associates, and by the satisfaction it gives me from indulging in my first and favorite profession, journalism.

To be political for just a moment — and it’s sad to think this is political — I’m grateful for the mainstream media which has weathered four years of assault without forsaking journalistic standards. A free press is essential to our democracy, speaking truth to power unflinchingly.

Naturally, all of us at Golden Real Estate are grateful for those buyers and sellers who have entrusted us with their real estate needs. We know that the sale or purchase of a home is often our clients’ biggest single financial transaction, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Real estate is an interesting profession. For most of us, it was not our first profession. In my case, I didn’t even think of becoming a real estate agent until my 50s. When I earned my license, I discovered several interesting facts about the profession, including that the median age of licensees was my age at the time, 54.

I also learned that it takes several years to become successful in real estate and that the average real estate agent has only two or three closings a year, not enough to make a good living. The majority of new agents give up in their first or second year, having wasted money they could ill afford to lose on software, signs, advertising, licensing and association fees, errors and omissions insurance and more.

I’m grateful when I have the opportunity to educate prospective agents about the difficulty of breaking into this profession and can save them the heartbreak of a lost year or two. But I’m also grateful when I am able to help our own broker associates succeed through the leads this column, our website, and our social media attract for us. As broker/owner, I also serve as a mentor and advisor to them, which I find quite satisfying.

I’m grateful for our MLS (Multiple Listing Service), REcolorado, which has made terrific strides toward being one of the best MLSs in the nation. I’m privileged to represent the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (DMAR) on the Rules & Regulations Committee, providing me with insights I’m then able to share in this space.

DMAR, too, has made great strides under its long-time executive director, Ann Turner. I’m grateful to her and the many Realtors who volunteer on DMAR committees, contributing to the high ethics and professionalism of our industry.

Not all real estate agents are members of the Realtor association, but they all benefit from the work that these associations do. We can all be grateful for the work of the National Association of Realtors, to which all the local Realtor associations belong. From its Washington, DC, office, it lobbies Congress to protect property rights and to fend off legislation that is harmful to our profession and in turn to all property owners.

NAR Agrees to More Transparency re: Buyer Agent Commissions

Last week, the Department of Justice simultaneously sued and settled with the National Association of Realtors regarding how brokers representing buyers are compensated and the public disclosure of that information.

As you may know — because I have written about it many times — the seller typically pays the commission of both the listing agent and the agent representing the buyer. The standard listing agreement includes the total commission and specifies how much of that commission will be shared with a buyer’s agent.

In that listing agreement, the total commission typically ranges from 5 to 6 percent, but the amount of that commission that is offered to buyers’ agents is traditionally 2.8% in our market. Our office policy at Golden Real Estate, like that of many brokerages, requires our agents to offer no less than 2.8%, because it has been demonstrated that offering less than 2.8% can result in fewer showings our listings.

Currently, that “co-op” commission is not displayed on consumer-facing MLS websites, but the settlement requires that it be displayed starting in January. Also, agents will be forbidden to tell buyers that their services are “free” or at “no cost to the buyer,” on the premise that the cost of that commission is reflected in the purchase price paid by the buyer.

Under the settlement, brokers who display MLS listings on their websites may not filter out listings which offer less than a specified co-op commission. We have never done that on our website, www.GoldenRealEstate.com

Lastly, the settlement requires that lockbox access be provided to licensed agents who are not members of the same MLS, an issue I have never encountered.

NAR President Apologizes for Past Racist Practices

On his first day as president of the National Association of Realtors, Charlie Oppler said NAR will continue to advocate for equality and inclusion in real estate, and he apologized for NAR policies in the 1900s that contributed to discrimination and racial inequality.

Oppler spoke during the Diversity and Inclusion Summit, issuing a sobering message that sets the tone for his priorities as president of the 1.4-million member organization. “What Realtors did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals.” said Oppler. “It was a betrayal of our commitment to fairness and equality. I’m here today, as the president of the National Association of Realtors, to say we were wrong.”

“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past,” Oppler continued. “But we can look at this problem squarely in the eye. And we can finally say, on behalf of our industry, that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

Oppler recognized the fact that “words aren’t enough,” emphasizing that the association and all Realtors should take “positive action to remedy decades’ worth of inequality.”

We at Golden Real Estate applaud Oppler for his strong statement on this subject.

Click here to read the full NAR press release.

Realtor Code of Ethics to Address Hate Speech

A couple weeks back, I wrote about how the National Association of Realtors is taking fair housing seriously. This week I read in an email newsletter that NAR is proposing changes to its Code of Ethics and professional standards to crack down on racist and discriminatory speech and behavior.

If implemented, the changes would apply NAR’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice to all activities, not just those related to real estate, prohibiting hate speech against protected classes. Protected classes under the Code of Ethics include race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Once these changes are adopted, the Code would prohibit all discrimination, not just willful discrimination, against protected classes and would recommend that ethics violations be considered under membership qualification criteria. Ethics violations could also be referred to governmental agencies for action.

 Discrimination would be deemed “particularly egregious” when determining appropriate discipline, which could include termination of membership for up to three years.

Realtor Association Takes Fair Housing Seriously

While it might be popular to think of Realtors as privileged conservatives (mostly Republicans) who put up with but are not fans of federal civil rights laws, quite the opposite appears to be true now. Liberal thinking Realtors are in ascendance.

An August 22 article from Realtor Magazine, the official magazine of the National Association of Realtors, makes this abundantly clear.

In 2018, NAR leadership laid bare at its legislative meetings in Washington, D.C., the organization’s “immutable past support of discriminatory and racist practices [link],” vowing to deepen its commitment to industry inclusivity and equal opportunity in housing.

The Chicago Association of Realtors, headed by an African-American woman, apologized last year for its “historically racist policies that persisted for decades.”

Click on that link above. Unless you miss the “good old days,” you’ll be heartened by what you read. It makes me proud to be a Realtor. The commitment to equality and justice is rock solid.

Coming: Big Changes to Denver’s MLS

It won’t be that obvious to consumers accessing our MLS at www.REcolorado.com, but agents who login to it will need to adjust to many changes that will take effect this coming Monday, January 13th. We at Golden Real Estate are studying the 45-minute instructional video provided to us by REcolorado.

The reason for the overhaul is to make the MLS database 100% compatible with national standards promulgated by the National Association of Realtors.

Another change coming within the next couple of months is an MLS rule restricting the use of “pocket listings” and “coming soon” listings, which are kept off the MLS, often to benefit the listing agent, not the seller. In a nutshell, the rule will say that any listing by an MLS member must be made active on the MLS within one day of any promotion of the listing, which includes putting a sign in the yard, promoting it online or on social media, or in any other way. 

Look for more details in this space on the roll-out of this rule when we get closer to its implementation. This rule was mandated in November by a nearly unanimous vote of the National Association of Realtors’ board of directors.

Thanksgiving’s Here, and We at Golden Real Estate Are Thankful

Some weeks I struggle to come up with a topic for this column, but not so this week. Allow me to share some of the ways in which our broker associates, my wife and I are all thankful.

First, Rita and I are so thankful to be Americans. In school I studied many languages — French, Russian, Latin, Greek, German and Japanese — and I have traveled extensively around the world, although not so much recently. I attended my sister’s wedding in Sweden, attended “citizen diplomacy” conferences in the Soviet Union, and visited Beijing right after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre (and twice since).

I have visited and marveled at Japan and its culture more than once. I visited the Russian port of Vladivostok (the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway) on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. I remember noting that pay phones there were free because Russian coins were essentially worthless due to inflation, and that most of the cars on the road were right-hand drive Toyotas and Nissans purchased used from nearby Japan.

Rita and I particularly like France and Italy and long to return there again soon. We enjoyed a week in London following a two-week Atlantic crossing on Cunard’s Queen Victoria with stops in  Bermuda and the Canary Islands. When and if I retire from real estate, we look forward to more international travel. 

Every trip is great, but we are always happy to be back in America and especially in Colorado. We are, as I said, thankful most of all to be Americans — and Coloradans.

Part of being an American is the opportunity to participate in our capitalist free enterprise system. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I like to say that, except for my stints at the Washington Post and the New York Post, every paycheck I’ve ever received was signed by me. I remember when I visited the Soviet Union in 1978 learning that Russians could be self employed but only the state could have employees. I realized then that the freedom of enterprise was the core freedom I value most.

Nearly every real estate agent is self-employed, even if they work for a brokerage. I suspect that 95% or more of all Realtors are independent contractors (1099 workers) responsible for their own taxes and expenses (phones, cars, computers, software, etc.) and receive no benefits of any kind. The dropout rate among new agents is as high as 90% and those who make it five or more years have demonstrated a fortitude that deserves respect. I am thankful for Golden Real Estate’s seven top-producing, highly-experienced broker associates whose cell numbers I am pleased to list below.

Next I am thankful for the readers and other members of the public who recognize that we are professionals, not just entrepreneurs, and that we earn what we charge by providing an invaluable service for one of life’s most significant financial transactions. Not everyone sees our value or respects what we provide, so we thank you.

Not every licensed real estate agent is a Realtor — that is, a member of the Realtor association.  Everyone who joins a Realtor brokerage like ours must join the Realtor association and pay Realtor dues, which run about $500 per year. But there are non-Realtor brokerages such as HomeSmart Cherry Creek Properties, Redefy, and Trelora Colorado, whose agents don’t pay Realtor dues and don’t have to abide by the Realtor Code of Ethics. I’m thankful for all those firms, like ours, that have chosen to be Realtor brokerages.

Why? Because the National Association of Realtors (NAR) lobbies for your property rights, not just the interests of its members. For example, when the Trump administration tried to dilute the capital gains exemption for home owners ($250,000 single and $500,000 married), it was NAR which lobbied successfully against that change. I could cite countless other examples where NAR’s lobbying efforts have benefited home owners and all those agents who don’t pay NAR dues. To me it’s a matter of professional and corporate responsibility to support NAR with our dues. So, yes, I am thankful for NAR, even when I gripe about dues increases!

Like everyone in our profession, I have individual clients — buyers and sellers — for whose friendship and patronage I am grateful.  You know who you are! You have not only granted me the opportunity to be of service, but you have allowed me to learn new things from every transaction. Perhaps you have introduced me to a new service provider such as an estate sales company, a roofer or plumber, or just a great new restaurant! As I have said many times, judge us agents not by our years in the business but by the number of transactions we have completed, because that’s our most valuable continuing education program.

I’m also thankful for my colleagues from other brokerages. Real estate is different from many other professions because of the tradition of “cooperation and compensation” embodied in our shared multi-list service, aka “MLS.” Some people compare us to car salesmen, but consider the following scenario: You go to a Ford dealership and describe what you’re looking for. The salesman realizes that the right vehicle for you is not a Ford but another brand, so he shows you other cars on his computer and then takes you to those dealerships for a test drive, knowing that he can write the purchase contract and get paid for selling you another dealer’s car just as he can get paid for selling a car from his own dealership. That’s how real estate works, made possible by the MLS.

You’d be impressed to see how agents share the keys to their success with each other. I recall once when I made a presentation at a Realtor meeting on how to shoot and edit video tours of listings, happy to have others do videos for their listings, even though video tours are a point of differentiation for us at Golden Real Estate.

So I’m thankful for how the real estate business works and for the many Realtors whom I consider friends, not just competitors.  If I or one of my Golden Real Estate broker associates is not the perfect agent for a given buyer or seller, I don’t hesitate to recommend one of them.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the Denver Post and four Jefferson County weekly newspapers which publish this column. Remember, you can also receive it by email, so just send me an email with your request.  Several years of prior columns are online at JimSmithColumns.com.

Our Broker Associates:

Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278

Kristi Brunel — 303-525-2520

Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835

Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000

Carol Milan — 720-982-4941

The Realtor Code of Ethics Exists to Protect You

You’ve probably seen the advertising, “Make Sure Your Agent Is a Realtor.” That’s because not all licensed real estate agents are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and only members of NAR can call themselves “Realtors.” And only Realtors must swear obedience to the Realtor Code of Ethics and are required to take 4-hour biennial refresher classes about the Code.  (Note: All Golden Real Estate agents are Realtors.) The Realtor Code of Ethics has 17 articles that are divided into three categories. They are as follows.

DUTIES TO CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS:

Article 1
Realtors protect and promote their clients’ interests while treating all parties honestly.

Article 2
Realtors refrain from exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts related to property or transactions.

Article 3
Realtors cooperate with other real estate professionals to advance their clients’ best interests.

Article 4
When buying or selling on their own account or for their families or firms, Realtors make their true position or interest known.

Article 5
Realtors do not provide professional services where they have any present or contemplated interest in property without disclosing that interest to all affected parties.

Article 6
Realtors disclose any fee or financial benefit they may receive from recommending related real estate products or services.

Article 7
Realtors accept compensation from only one party, except where they make full disclosure to all parties and receive informed consent from their client.

Article 8
Realtors keep the funds of clients and customers in a separate escrow account.

Article 9
Realtors make sure that details of agreements are spelled out in writing whenever possible and that parties receive copies.

DUTIES TO THE PUBLIC:

Article 10
Realtors give equal professional service to all clients and customers irrespective of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Realtors do not discriminate in their employment practices.

Article 11
Realtors are knowledgeable and competent in the fields of practice in which they engage or they get assistance from a knowledgeable professional, or disclose any lack of expertise to their client.

Article 12
Realtors are honest and truthful in their communications and present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and in other public representations.

Article 13
Realtors do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Article 14
Realtors willingly participate in ethics investigations and enforcement actions.

DUTIES TO REALTORS:

Article 15
Realtors make only truthful, not misleading, comments about other real estate professionals.

Article 16
Realtors respect the exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other Realtors have with their clients.

Article 17
Realtors arbitrate and mediate financial disagreements with other Realtors and with their clients.